until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Prolonged Pagenaud absence sets up long overdue IndyCar debut

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Reigning Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist will make his IndyCar race debut this weekend at Nashville in place of the injured Simon Pagenaud at Meyer Shank Racing.

Lundqvist, 24, is the third driver in five races to replace Pagenaud, with Conor Daly racing at Mid-Ohio and Iowa, while the team’s sportscar ace Tom Blomqvist drove at Toronto.

Pagenaud lost his brakes and had a spectacular somersaulting crash at Mid-Ohio – and hasn’t been able to return since. The Shank team says he “continues to improve” but has been advised not to compete at Nashville.

Team owner Mike Shank had confirmed to IndyStar earlier this month that Pagenaud had been suffering concussion-like symptoms and that the team would prioritise having the Frenchman “heal properly before he’s ready to come back”.

Simon Pagenaud Meyer Shank IndyCar crash

Lundqvist took the Indy Lights championship in 2022 at the second attempt, winning five races with four podiums and seven pole positions for the HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne team.

However, a change to the prize structure for Indy Lights in 2022 meant the winner of the championship was not given the budget to do three races including the Indy 500 like in the past.

Last year’s runner-up Sting Ray Robb – who does bring significant backing unlike Lundqvist – got the chance to partner David Malukas at HMD instead of Lundqvist.

Lundqvist has tested on multiple occasions this year, first with Rahal Letterman Lanigan at Texas and then with Ed Carpenter at Sebring, off the back of an outing with Andretti in late 2021.

Linus Lundqvist IndyCar

“This is a moment I’ve been dreaming of literally since the start of my career,” said Lundqvist.

“I could not be more excited about the prospect of finally making my NTT IndyCar Series debut; I am extremely grateful to Meyer Shank Racing for this opportunity.

“This will be an incredible experience, but also the toughest challenge of my life.

“Sitting on the sidelines all year, it would be a massive task to join any championship towards the end of the season – let alone the NTT IndyCar Series on the streets of Nashville.

“There’s been very little time to prepare, but I feel like the sheer excitement of this moment will make up for some of that.

“Of course, working alongside Helio [Castroneves] – one of the true legends of this sport – will also be a huge asset. Last but not least, I would like to wish Simon Pagenaud a continued speedy recovery.

“While fully aware of everything I have to learn this weekend, I will do my very best to make him and everyone else on the team proud in Music City.”

Lundqvist has raced in sportscars and also in the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia this year as well as helping advise HMD’s Indy NXT – the new name for Indy Lights – drivers this season, which has involved attending most of the series’ races.

Linus Lundqvist Indy NXT

Arrow McLaren driver Felix Rosenqvist is a new emerging favourite to join Meyer Shank – potentially in place of Pagenaud – but Lundqvist being given this chance could give him an opportunity to throw his hat in the ring.

Mike Shank told The Race that Blomqvist had nothing left to prove after his debut in Toronto, and the IMSA ace has a Road America race this weekend that made him available.

MSR has had a difficult campaign in 2023 so far, yet to finish higher than 10th, but its car does at least seem to suit street circuits better than ovals or road courses.

Whether this Nashville opportunity is a genuine effort to assess Lundqvist for next year isn’t publicly clear, but a good outing could push Lundqvist higher on teams’ lists for 2024.

He’s been linked to the two teams he tested with earlier this year for 2024 – at Rahal in place of Jack Harvey and at Ed Carpenter if Ryan Hunter-Reay steps aside.

The Race Says

Linus Lundqvist Indy Lights

It was awful that Lundqvist didn’t get the chance that so many of his predecessors did as the prize structure changed for Indy Lights last year.

Even if that change of prize structure was communicated, it wasn’t done well, and the fact that Lunqvist still didn’t know what his payout would be at the post-season banquet tells you all you need to know about how clear things were to him.

Sure, it’s Lundqvist’s and his management’s job to understand the prize structure, but the fact the news about the prize changing didn’t come out until after the season and the disagreement over who had or hadn’t been told about it highlights the unfortunate confusion.

But amid all of that, Lundqvist kept relatively quiet. He’s discussed it when asked, but it would have been easy for him to shout from the tree tops talking about how he was robbed of the prize he earned – one that this year’s NXT champion will get if to a slightly smaller degree than in 2021.

It’s a reflection of Lundqvist and his support network’s intelligence and forsight that they elected not to play a victim card and plainly got on with working towards returning to the grid without burning any bridges.

It’s a lesson in diplomacy for young drivers out there. After all, Lundqvist has spoken at length about how he wouldn’t have even made it to Indy Lights without the scholarships that rewarded him along the way.

Regardless of what you think of Lundqvist as a driver and how well he does in the flash-in-the-pan debut, his actions can be a lesson to young drivers and he should be congratulated for how he has conducted himself as his career appeared to slip away.

He never gave up, and this is the reward. He’s done it without burning bridges many others would have.

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